Concern over increase in pension cold calls

Elderly couple Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The Information Commissioner's Office has received more than 1,000 complaints about pension cold calls and texts this year

The Information Commissioner's Office says it is concerned about the number of people being cold called about pensions.

It says it has received more than 1,000 complaints about calls and texts this year.

The consumer group Which? also believes unsolicited calls have increased with the arrival of pension freedom.

Both organisations have urged people of pension age to be on their guard against fraud attempts.

Fraud alert

In the past, fraudsters trying to access savings have needed to set up fake pension schemes, before persuading victims to transfer their money.

But since pension freedom changes came into force on 6 April, anyone over 55 has been able to withdraw their pension savings and put them where they like, subject to certain conditions.

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner's Office, told Radio 4's Money Box that fraudsters are always looking for new opportunities.

"We always thought it could lead to an increase in the number of unlawful calls which are made. We're hoping it won't match the scale of the calls made in relation to PPI."

He believes part of the problem is people giving permission to be contacted to a firm with no obvious financial services connection.

It may then sell it onto a firm offering to help invest your pension money.

"They're saying they'll share information with affiliated members or third parties. We say they should be clear about which organisations they share their information with."

Suspicious services

The consumer group Which? estimates that over the last two years, one in every three people over 55 has been contacted about their pension without having requested it.

Gareth Shaw, editor of Which? Money, believes the problem has increased dramatically since the start of the year.

"Two in five of the people who had been contacted had been contacted in the first three months of this year and that's actually double the whole of 2014."

He said people were being tempted by a range of services.

"Things like investment opportunities, free pension reviews, legal loopholes and early access to their pension cash. All the well-worn phrases and the warning signs that many of the industry bodies have said that people need to look out for.

"If you get a call about transferring a pension or an investment opportunity, it's not going to be from a genuine company."

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner's Office, warned fraudsters that his organisation has stronger powers since last month.

"Prior to April 6, we had to show that consumers had suffered substantial damage or distress.

"But since the change in the law, all we have to show is there has been a serious contravention . We can issue fines up to £500,000. "

Money Box is broadcast on Saturdays at 12:00 BST on BBC Radio 4 and repeated on Sundays at 21:00 BST. You can listen again via the BBC iPlayer or by downloading Money Box podcast.

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